If there has been a more painful week in the Pagan community, I can’t remember it. I won’t torture you with a litany of all the evils we have witnessed and that we have done to ourselves. We are, for the most part, people of action. We see something wrong – in ourselves, in our communities, in our nation, in our wider world – and our first thought is to do something. If what we can do isn’t enough, we shine our lights and lift our voices to tell the world that this is a great wrong that must be made right.
And sometimes, in our zeal to make things right and to be in the right, we say and do things that are incompassionate to our friends and unhelpful to our cause.
Then with our hearts already heavy from our infighting, we see great evil rained down on innocents, and we see revenge taken against other victims of the same evil. We know this great malevolence did not arise in a vacuum, and we have no God of Evil to blame for their origin.
Some groups on the fringe of Paganism teach that our personal power is limited only by our will. But like working magic to protect your home from an incoming hurricane, events as we have experienced this week tell us this is not so.
We are wise, except when we aren’t. We are strong, but we are few. We experience the frustration of living in a world whose values are at great odds with our own. And let’s be honest: most of us are disproportionately challenged by the mainstream world in which we must live, even those of us who appear to navigate it successfully.
I have no great words of comfort to offer. They would be a lie, and you would know it. I cannot tell you things will get better, because the evidence tells me Western society is at the beginning of a centuries-long decline. I can’t even tell you things will be OK in the end, for our Gods are limited in power and scope and They have no “master plan” – which, to be honest, is better than the master plans some people claim for their Gods.
What I can tell you is that your ancestors faced challenges even greater than these. They did more than survive: they lived, and loved, and enjoyed life, and they left a foundation that we build on today. I can tell you that the Gods stand ready to inspire and empower us, not because They want us to be safe and comfortable but because They have work that needs to be done. I can tell you that the spirits of Nature are skeptical, but they will be our allies if we will show ourselves trustworthy, and if we will listen.
The world is hard and it’s getting harder. You might as well be who and what you’re called to be. Practice your devotion to your Gods and ancestors. Practice your magic. Practice your love of Nature. Go deeper. Get stronger. Learn and refine the skills you will need to do your Great Work in these challenging times.
Take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water, eat good food, get enough sleep. Go for a walk, rake leaves, dance – do something to get your body moving. Stay informed, but don’t dwell on the tragedy and the outrage.
Most importantly, gather your tribe. Kiss your lovers, hug your friends and family, greet your neighbors – all your neighbors. The idea of building a cabin somewhere high in the mountains and never coming down is strong at times like these, but it’s an unhelpful – and unrealistic – fantasy.
Due to some fortuitous scheduling, tonight I’m going to a long, leisurely dinner with some of my fellow Pagans that will turn into an adult sleepover. I’ve been looking forward to it, but after the events of this week and especially of last night, I’m so thankful we’re getting together. What are you doing tonight? Can you gather with your tribe? Can you cook dinner for a friend? Or perhaps, can you cook dinner for a stranger?
The world is hard and it’s getting harder. We cannot allow it to make us hard people. That will serve neither ourselves nor our values. Instead, may we grow stronger and wiser, and may we care for ourselves, each other, and the world around us.